Lucky indies will be Truly blessed

Samsung-Landmark alliance provides a showcase for smaller films

Samsung is launching its partnership with Landmark Theatres' Truly Indie program with advertising and marketing support for an independent film that will be screened in five cities for five days in the hopes that it will be picked up for distribution.

Samsung said the indie film will be chosen by New York University and other university film-school students as well as select moviegoers invited to screenings of the five finalist films at Landmark Theatres in April and May. They can then vote for the film of their choice, with the winner receiving Samsung funding to bring the film to five Landmark screens in June and to market the film with outdoor, online, print and on-screen ads in Landmark Theatres. A panel of indie film bloggers and industry experts will select the five finalists from a pool of indie films without distribution.

"This is a huge value for directors who have struggled to get their films made but don't have anybody buying or showing their films," said Kris Narayanan, director of integrated marketing at Samsung Electronics America.

Samsung's support for the Truly Indie program is the latest component of its multimillion-dollar marketing initiative in support of independent film that was launched in September in partnership with Landmark.

So far, the initiative has included co-branded ads and promotions for Paramount Vantage's "Into the Wild" and Focus Features' "Atonement" — both Oscar-nominated films — as well as the Blueseat program, which includes content like interviews with those films' directors, Sean Penn and Joe Wright, at Blueseat.com.

"Their program has been amazing," said Landmark Theatres co-owner Mark Cuban, who also is co-founder of Magnolia Pictures and 2929 Entertainment with partner Todd Wagner. "Their support has not only brought awareness to indie films, but the Blueseat program has had an impact on changing people's perceptions of going to indie films. They are making it clear that seeing films like 'Into the Wild' or 'Atonement' at a chain like Landmark is actually an enhanced experience, as opposed to the more run-down expectations of the past. Add their support to the production and promotion of the films, and I think it's safe to say that they are having an enormous impact on the industry."

Focus CEO James Schamus said Samsung's marketing support played a "big part" in the success of "Atonement," which is slated to become the company's second-highest-grossing film after "Brokeback Mountain."

Narayanan said the support these films are getting from a major advertiser is "unprecedented," since most promotional dollars traditionally go to tentpole releases. "This is a commitment we've made as a company because we feel these films need recognition, and these directors deserve recognition," Narayanan said. "And it certainly helps us connect with our audience." In order to maintain its current level of marketing support and not dilute it, Samsung probably will back four independent films this year, including the Truly Indie film chosen.

Narayanan said the five indie films will be screened and voted on by students as part of Samsung's new film tour, which brings independent films and filmmakers to students via special screenings and Q&A sessions at Landmark Theatres. Moviegoers signed up for Blueseat.com and regular Landmark patrons also will be invited to attend the five screenings and to vote for the film they think deserves Samsung's support.
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